Next year will see 141 female legislators in Congress, up from the 127 that were serving this year. This marks a clear shift in a Republican Party that has historically been controlled by white men.
The 2020 congressional race in the United States has been dubbed by many as “the year of the Republican woman” as more than a dozen Republican women beat their Democratic challengers to win seats in the 117th Congress.
This number includes 15 Republican women elected to the US House of Representatives, more than doubling the previous total number of women in the chamber and bringing the new number of female Republican representatives to 28. In contrast, there will be 89 Democratic women with seats in the House.
In all, next year will see 141 female legislators in Congress, up from the 127 that were serving this year. This marks a clear shift in a Republican Party that has historically been controlled by white men.
Republican political consultant Julie Conway speculated about the reason for this increase in an interview with NBC News, saying, “I think everybody’s looking for the magical reason why 2020 was such a good year for Republican women, but the reality is, it’s a combination of a lot of things over a lot of years … seats that were winnable, and incredible women running for those seats, and the infrastructure around them finally at a point that they were able to get at least some of the help they needed to get them over certain obstacles and then they were able to be successful because they, quite frankly, worked their tails off.”
Many are seeing this change as a response to the Democratic races won by women in 2018, where more than a hundred Democratic women won seats in Congress.
“It’s not just Democrat women who have a monopoly on breaking glass ceilings. Republican women have been doing it all year long,” said Nancy Mace, Republican Congresswoman-elect from South Carolina’s 1st district, in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union. “Democrats have just done a better job at recruiting women to run.”
Mace also added that women and minorities will need to be the future of the Republican party for years to come. “I look at our freshman class right now, and we really reflect the faces of America – the diversity and the inclusion we have in the Republican Party. That is our future, and if we don’t get on board with recruiting the right people – minorities, women, veterans, etc. – then we’re going to lose in the future.”
In addition to the uptick in the number of Republican congresswomen being elected, there were a few notable people of color in the party to be elected this year. Burgess Owens, a Black former NFL player, won in Utah’s 4th district. Yvette Herrell, a Cherokee Nation member who was endorsed by President Donald Trump, won New Mexico’s 2nd. Michelle Steel and Young Kim, two Korean-American women from California, won the state’s 48th and 39th districts while Carlos Gimenez, a Cuban immigrant, and Maria Salazar, daughter of Cuban exiles, won Florida’s 26th and 27th districts.
These elections have been referred to as a wake-up call for Democrats, who have historically held the female and minority votes by a significant margin. In the 2008 election between then-Senator Barack Obama and Republican Senator John McCain, more than two-thirds of Hispanics voted for Obama, as did 95% of Black Americans. This year, however, Biden received only 89% of the Black vote and in Florida (a key battleground state) he received only 42% of the Cuban vote.
Despite the decreasing number of minorities who vote for Democrats, the party still has the more diverse coalition in Congress, with more than a hundred people of color in Congress.
“I don’t think any political entity or party should take any constituency for granted,” said Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina based strategist. “If there’s one thing election after election teaches us, it’s that no voting bloc is monolithic.”
Democrats will have the opportunity to add one more person of color to Congress on January 5 in the Georgia runoff elections, where the Reverend Raphael Warnock is running for a Senate seat against Republican Kelly Loeffler. The fate of Warnock and his fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff will determine whether Republicans or Democrats hold the Senate majority in the 117th Congress.
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